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Yahoo Invades Our Private space

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

October 24, 2016

Yahoo may be about to create a world where we can’t escape from ourselves, even for a moment. There was a time when a person that wished to unplug and chill out  could go outside for a walk, take  a trip, or go for a drive in the car to allow time to think. Now those periods of peace may be interrupted by an alarming initiative which Yahoo is championing and pioneering.

If its innovation, currently under patent review, comes to fruition, there might not be any escape from the viewing of advertising messages – even as you mindlessly travel through the day. According to Ars Technica, George Orwell would be right at home in this scenario called ’’grouplization”.

What Yahoo proposes in its patent application is to elevate the digital sophistication used online to a new level and apply it’s intrusiveness to outdoor advertising – including roadside billboards and public-facing advertising. This type of advertising has, heretofore, been one-dimensional, passive advertising. The company will attempt to increase the effectiveness of such media using the profile of the person or vehicle in the vicinity as a target to assault with a message. Yahoo refers to the new initiative as “Smart  Billboards”.

Yahoo ad patent

Thus, billboards and transit advertising will conform more to the online advertising penetration.  Should it come to pass, no place will be safe from media bombardment.

Yahoo envisions these advertising incursions to be ubiquitous, appearing in bars, airports, planes, ferries, buses, trains, and other public spaces. It envisions employing video cameras, satellites, drones, microphones, motion detectors, and “biometric sensors” such as fingerprint, retinal, and facial recognition technology to identify viable targets and pound an advertising message home, based on what it sees or discerns about the individual.

These “sensor systems” form the backbone of “grouplization”. Yahoo’s own language in the application is scary in that it considers the opportunities to invade our space “virtually limitless.”

So, in the near future, roadside billboards displaying long lasting static messages or images which are shown for a month or more until they are arduously and manually changed, will mimic more the targeted nature of online ads. You may already have seen a move in that direction with public outdoor advertising that rotates its images among a few possibilities.Yahoo’s prospective advertising offensive will move the needle more in the direction of the digital domain.

It may make sense in theory from an advertiser’s point of view. But how would it actually work in reality? Yahoo’s prospective advertising offensive will move the needle more in the direction of the digital domain.  It may make sense in theory from an advertiser’s point of view. But how would it actually work in reality?

In practice, every advertising platform, say, along the road, will have a sensor that tells the smart billboard what make and type vehicle is approaching. The advertising display could then be customized to a more upscale driver – if indeed the car is a luxury brand or model. Or, at the very least, the ad could reflect the time of day (maybe a congested rush hour) to reflect some form of entertainment, relaxation, or radio station featuring pertinent programming.

Or, if it is sensitive to the day of the week like a Friday, the message could change to reflect some targeted weekend activity such as an escape weekend to a hotel or spa or even some entertainment venue. As Yahoo itself proclaims, the possibilities are “limitless”.

An example of the never-ending possibilities takes a darker turn if the advertisements can glean mobile phone information (in much the way that a Stingray does) to a potential suspect’s mobile phone, or information stored on the car’s GPS. It’s spooky to contemplate.  In that instance, the outdoor advertising might correspond with some stored online data or profile the target has accumulated.

This would put the final nail in the coffin for the freedom of the open road, and the privacy of your vehicle, and would put Big Brother squarely in the picture. Oh, and don’t think that taking public transportation will save you from the advertising onslaught. If you have any sort of electronic device, it can be read and turned into an advertising opportunity, right on the train, bus or taxi.

Make no mistake, it’s coming soon, and it’s enough to keep one up at night!

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